Denver Business Journal: Easter Seals comes to rescue with labor force at companies
This article was originally published in the Denver Business Journal, May 30, 2014 cover story.
Story by: L. Wayne Hicks, Associate Editor- Denver Business Journal.
Link to original story: Denver Business Journal May 2014
Scott Flores, CEO of Northglenn’s Die Cut Technologies, has a crew of eight people working part time to remove the slugs left behind when a product is stamped out of metal or rubber. Those workers complement his staff of 22 employees, and come via Easter Seals Colorado.
A nonprofit, Easter Seals provides employment training for people with disabilities.
Flores first hired someone with a developmental disability 20 years ago. The owner of a neighboring company was looking for someone to hire his son. Flores was agreeable, but said he didn’t have any way to supervise him. He reached out to Easter Seals Colorado. The organization supplied a case manager, a position that evolved to become a job coach.
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“Someone walking through wouldn’t know they’re part of Easter Seals because it’s a seamless relationship between Die Cut and Easter Seals employees,” Flores said.
The job these Easter Seals clients are doing isn’t the most thrilling. “Frankly,” Flores said, “it’s a boring job to sit there all day and remove the slugs. … It’s meticulous hand labor. There’s no way to automate it.”
But having the Easter Seals crew in house has put a stop to Flores constantly having to hire people without disabilities to remove the slugs, only to have them quit after a few weeks.
“It was just a high- turnover, minimum-wage position,” he said. “It was just a revolving door.”
One Easter Seals-supplied worker has been on the job 17 years; others, more than 10.
Flores has become an energetic supporter of companies turning to Easter Seals Colorado for staffing help. He spread the word to Sam Sherman, owner of Angler’s Accessories and of Mountain River Lanyards, both in Centennial, and Sherman told Rachelle and Carl Reichley, owner of Denver-based Yay! Life!
“It truly is a wonderful program,” said Sherman. He uses six people from Easter Seals to package the hundreds of products Angler’s Accessories sells, and eight more to assemble Mountain River Lanyards’ signature products. The lanyards have a place for fishing line, hooks – anything an angler would find necessary on a riverbank.
“It’s a lot more than assembling beads on a string or tying knots,” Kelsey Torchia, an Easter Seals job coach, said about what’s involved with her clients working at Mountain River Lanyards, although assembling the lanyards does involve some of that. “It’s skills you can learn here that you can take out in the community, you can take back home.”
Torchia works with the Easter Seals clients during their time at Mountain River Lanyards on employee attitudes, social skills and getting along with others.
Other than five independent sales representatives across the country, Sherman is running his companies solo. Mountain River Lanyards was based in Bozeman, Montana, before Sherman bought it three years. He was told by people assembling the lanyards there that his plan of getting help from Easter Seals clients wouldn’t work. The assembly work was too intricate for someone with a developmental disability, he was told.
“It took about a week and these guys had it down,” Sherman said. His crew assembles at least 100 lanyards a week, working just Wednesday and Friday.
Yay! Life! keeps 18 people from Easter Seals busy. The three-year-old company makes magnets – small ones for refrigerators, larger ones for cars – celebrating the simple things in life. “Yay! Bacon!” is a big seller. The magnets are printed in North Carolina and sorted and packaged by Easter Seals crews, who also affix a label to the back of each company. The company’s inventory contains about 800 different sayings.
“By working with Easter Seals, that helps us in the long run,” said Rachelle Reichley, the co-owner of Yay! Life! “We haven’t had to hire any employees.”
“Really, we couldn’t do it without them, honestly,” said Carl Reichley, the company’s co-owner and Rachelle’s husband.
Story by L. Wayne Hicks, Associate Editor – Denver Business Journal